An inside look into life at Saint Luke’s
We believe in the power of story. Everyone who contributes to the mission of Saint Luke’s has a story to tell: our nurses, doctors, pharmacists, support staff, and all others who call Saint Luke’s their workplace home. As you listen to our stories and absorb what life is like at Saint Luke’s from “those in the know,” perhaps you’ll sense a glimmer of what the next chapter in your own story might sound like.
“Josiah, a Saint Luke’s Nurse… worked in the CVOR for a few months before he was called to serve the LORD. He returned to Saint Luke’s a year later to continue serving others through his career. The overwhelming compassion he feels from everyone in the unit is amazing. While days can be long and challenging, Josiah knows that every single team member will support him unconditionally. He also values the profound difference he makes in the lives of patients and family members. Whether it’s helping them get back to a healthier, more active lifestyle, or giving them a second chance at life through the Saint Luke’s heart transplant program, the lives of our patients are forever changed. That’s the Saint Luke’s experience.”
Josiah G. // CVOR RN
“Tenure at Saint Luke’s began as a student in Physical Therapy from Mizzou in the early 1980’s, followed by employment from 1984-1986 as a Physical Therapist. One of the best bosses I have had is Lorra Embers, who continues to be Director of Saint Luke’s Rehab! As a PT, I assisted the Cardiac Rehab Nurses with inpatient education and rehabilitation for patients admitted with myocardial infarction. It was then I fell in love with cardiology and went back to medical school; staying at UMKC for my Internal Medicine Residency which allowed me to continue to be on Saint Luke’s campus. I was away from the Saint Luke’s family from 1993-1997 to complete my Cardiology Fellowship at Mayo Clinic, with hopes I may return home to Kansas City to practice at Saint Luke’s. My dream came true and I am celebrating 20 years as a Cardiologist with Saint Luke’s Cardiovascular Consultants! I am honored to be involved with patient care and treasure that I am surrounded by so many who share the same passion!”
Tracy S. // MD Cardiologist
“Being a cardiologist, I don’t often have patients that are in my own age group. Being 6’4” and 200lbs, I also don’t have many that are bigger than me. MR was notable on both accounts. The first time I met him, I walked in the room to shake his hand and he stood up and smiled. At 6’6” and close to 500lbs, he made me feel small. As he sat back down, we talked about his medical history. He had atrial fibrillation that had become progressively worse over the course of several years, despite medical treatment. Atrial fibrillation, or Afib, is the most common heart rhythm disorder in the world and is characterized by rapid, irregular heartbeats that originate from left upper chamber of the heart. It is typically a disease of older patients, not usually someone my own age. When a younger person develops the condition, it is unusual, but it can be secondary to alcohol abuse, thyroid disease or sleep apnea. I checked MR for each of these and they were all negative. He was debilitated by the constant fatigue and decreased stamina caused by his condition and the medications he was prescribed to control his heart rhythm were no longer effective. Therefore I discussed with him to option to pursue a radiofrequency ablation. This is a complex procedure performed under general anesthesia whereby a catheter is inserted into the blood vessels of the body up to the heart and crosses over from the right upper chamber to the left upper chamber of the heart. Once in the left upper chamber, or left atrium, the catheter is manipulated inside the heart to create a 3-dimensional model of the heart’s anatomic structure as well as electrical activity using a sophisticated computer system. The catheter is then manipulated to the regions of rapid electrical activity and the tip of the catheter is heated to create a series of burns to eliminate the source of atrial fibrillation in the patient’s heart.
I remember MR’s first ablation very well. Like the rest of him, his left atrium was very large and there was a lot abnormal electrical activity inside. It took me over 6 hours to eliminate every last source of atrial fibrillation that I could find. However, within a few months he had reverted back into atrial fibrillation again. He showed up in my office and he was frustrated and disappointed. I explained that there was a lot of abnormal activity in his heart and, despite my efforts, it was not possible to eliminate all of these regions in his first procedure. I offered to do a second procedure but I emphasized that he had to do some work on his end to improve his odds of success. I told him he had to lose some weight and exercise to build up his stamina. He said that he would try, but he seemed disheartened at the time. The second ablation procedure took almost 7 hours but it was very successful and I was able to eliminate all of the abnormal electrical activity that was generating his atrial fibrillation. When I saw him back in follow up, he smiled at me and said he felt the best he had felt in years. When I looked at his chart, however, I saw that he had not lost any weight. I told him I was happy for him that he was feeling better, but I was concerned that if he did not lose weight, there was a chance the atrial fibrillation could come back. He asked me how much weight he should try to loose and I told him he needed to lose 100lbs. He was taken aback and said he did not think he could loose that much. He thought 20lbs was more likely. I explained that given his young age and his lack of other risk factors, his weight was likely the primary driver of his atrial fibrillation and that if he did not lose weight, his atrial fibrillation would come back.
I did not see him for almost a year, however when he came back he was in another rapid heart rhythm, atrial flutter, a more organized version of atrial fibrillation. I placed him on medication and prepared for him to undergo a cardioversion, or electrical shock to the heart to restore normal heart rhythm. This would put him back in normal rhythm and the medication would help keep him in rhythm but it would not be permanent. I explained that he would continue to have continue to have recurrent heart rhythm abnormalities if he did not lose weight and he was simply too young to have an ablation every other year. Each ablation he had was successful, but it could not overcome the driving force of his obesity that was causing excess strain on his heart and leading to the development of further stretch in the top chambers of his heart and resulting in recurrent heart rhythm abnormalities. Without a change, he was destined to either suffer a complication from the procedure or settle into a permanent form of atrial fibrillation. I told him, “Look, I’m really concerned about you. You are too young to have this many heart problems. If you don’t make a change in your lifestyle now, I’m worried about the state of your health in the next 5-10 years. However, if you take this opportunity to make a change, you can alter your destiny. You can put yourself on a different path.” He nodded his head in silent understanding and we concluded the visit. When I left, I worried that my words had fallen on deaf ears again and I would be seeing him back in atrial fibrillation.
I did not see MR for almost a year. He missed a 6 month appointment and I received an apologetic message stating he got busy with work and forgot. I worried that he was declining further. He promised to make his next appointment.
When I saw his name on my schedule again, I wondered if he would actually show up or not. If he did show up, I wondered what heart rhythm he would be in and if he had lost any weight at all. After he was roomed, the medical assistant handed me his electrocardiogram (ECG) and a sheet with vitals, including his weight. His ECG showed he was still in normal sinus rhythm and his weight was decreased by over 60lbs. I could not believe it, I thought the medical assistant had transcribed his weight incorrectly.
When I opened the door, I hardly recognized him. He stood up again and he was just as a tall, but his face was narrow and slim. He smiled and told me he had been in rhythm since our last appointment. I congratulated him on the weight loss and I asked him how he did it. He told me that he took my words to heart and he decided to make weight loss his top priority. He began walking every day and focused on his diet. Slowly and consistently, the weight came off. He told me he was on track to lose over 100lbs and he was motivated to reach his goal weight. Ecstatic, I told him, “I’m really proud of you. It is not easy to do what you have done. Your hard work will pay off and you are making the best investment you can in your future health and quality of life.” I told him I was excited to see him back in 6 months to see how he was doing.
A few days later, I received the following personal message from MR via our patient portal:
I have been wanting to tell you this for a while but never had the opportunity. When I first came and saw you in 2013 I was at my lowest both physically and mentally. Physically I was tired all the time, I sweated profusely from the time I got out of the shower in the morning to the time I went to bed at night. I was light headed whenever moving for an extended period especially when walking up stairs. Mentally I thought that I would have this condition for the rest of my life.
I had just spent the previous 9 months with the Cardiologist in Independence who basically told me they wouldn’t do anything to me surgically because of my weight . The said that they would give me lots of drugs and if I lost a 100 pounds they would “consider” a cardioversion. I was on the short side of weighing 500 pounds when I walked into your office. You seemed concerned about my weight but you wouldn’t let that get in your way of providing treatment to me. You tested me for everything to figure out what the cause was. Nothing came up as the apparent cause of my afib. So then you proceeded to do cardioversions which were unsuccessful followed by 2 ablations which were successful but only for a short time.
When you did the ablation on me I then realized that there was both confident and unconfident Cardiologists. Luckily for me you were one of the confident ones. You eventually looked me square in the eye and said “It has to be syour weight.” “You need to lose weight.” When you looked at me and said that, I realized that you actually cared about me and was wanting to get me cured. Unfortunately that’s not something I’ve seen from the medical community previously due to my size. So that’s what I did. I lost weight because I wanted to get better and I didn’t want to disappoint you because I knew that you cared about me.
I respect your confidence, your abilities and your skills. I see you going far in your career. Since converting in August I have felt the best that I have in 4 years all thanks to you. Please don’t let anyone change you. Thank you Dr. Gupta. You honestly don’t know what your treatment has meant to me.
As a physician, we never know in advance whose lives we will touch and whose we will not. There are some patients we help a lot, some just a little and some who get worse, despite our best efforts. Nevertheless, every time I open a patient’s exam room door, it is a new opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. I hang onto these victories, these moments when I have really connected with someone, as motivation to keep me going through those periods when I worry if my efforts are having an impact or not. More than a paycheck, or status, or prestige, it is the opportunity to connect with another person in a meaningful way that makes my job worth it every day.”
Sanjaya G., MD Physician // Cardiology
“Truly can’t imagine doing anything else. She began her career in the CVOR department at Saint Luke’s three years ago and has continued to grow as a nurse ever since. Whether holding a hand or retrieving a new heart, she enjoys Making a Difference in a patient’s life. The entire culture at our award-winning health system is built upon communication, collaboration and teamwork. Megan feels blessed to have found her “home” and wholeheartedly plans on spending her entire nursing career at Saint Luke’s.”
Megan C. // CVOR RN
“Has a big heart and unwavering dedication to his patients. One of Timothy’s favorite stories is about a patient in the Saint Luke’s outpatient clinic. Upon hearing the man would be hospitalized during his wedding anniversary, the Saint Luke’s staff went into action. When the wife arrived on their anniversary day, she found her husband waiting with a beautiful flower arrangement. The couple was overjoyed with what the staff had done. This small display of compassion embodies the true spirit of the caring culture found at Saint Luke’s. Having Timothy and other staff like him as a resource has helped make our community a healthier and better place.”
Timothy L. // Medical Assistant